Two surfers looking over the cliffside of Black's Beach California looking out onto the blue oceans

A Guide to Black’s Beach, California

Black’s Beach, California, is home to some of the best and most impressive waves in San Diego. Find out more about it here.

The coastal cliffsides of Black's Beach in Torrey Pines, California. Rocky sandy mountains and ocean coming to high tide

Black’s Beach, California, is a beach in San Diego that’s renowned for its exceptional waves, even during the winter. The beach is situated along the rocky coastline of La Jolla, below the Torrey Pines Gliderport and north of La Jolla Shores. 

Visitors and tourists can expect to ride amazing waves throughout the year so if you want to get soaking wet and get the adrenaline pumping - this is arguably one of the best spots in San Diego to do so. 

But Black’s Beach isn’t popular just for its waves and stunning cliffsides, it’s also one of the most famous nude beaches in California and the rest of the United States. The funny thing is that nudism is unlawful in San Diego but because it’s been going on for a long time (since people first started visiting the beach), no one bothers the nudists. 

However, it might also be because getting to Black’s Beach is somewhat difficult and tedious as you have to hike through the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Visitors are advised to stay on the designated trails, especially if they take the most popular route to Black’s Beach (the Torrey Pines Glider Port). People have gotten stuck in the past and a few have even died after falling from the cliffs. Be careful.

For reference, the sea cliffs rise from the beach to about 300 feet in height which also makes it dangerous to set up your beach site close to the cliffs as landslides can occur (often tragically in the past). 

There are 4 paths you can take to reach Black’s Beach. We also don’t recommend going down unmarked paths. Only two of the four are constantly maintained so if you don’t want to dedicate an hour or two of your time to hike down to the beach, it’s best to skip it altogether. 

The Torrey Pines Glider-port trail down to the nudist Black's Beach in San Diego, California

Here are the paths:

  • Torrey Pines Glider Port Trail: This one we already mentioned. Our advice is to completely stay away from the cliffs whenever possible because they tend to be unstable. There’s even a “Do Not Use” sign at the beginning of the route, signifying the dangerous path ahead.

  • Torrey Pines State Beach: This route is only accessible when the tide is low. You’ll start from the Torrey Pines State Reserve parking lot that’s situated at the base of the reserve.

  • La Jolla Shores: This route is also accessible only when the tide is low. The 3-mile route will take you from La Jolla Shores beach and past the Scripps Pier.

  • Torrey Pines State Park: This is the safest way of getting to Black’s Beach, albeit you will have to hike for a while. Luckily, the trails are well-maintained and clearly marked so you won’t have trouble figuring out where to go. 
  • Black’s Beach doesn’t have a lot of amenities but there are showers, bathrooms, and parking in the surrounding area (north of Torrey Pines State Beach, and south, at the La Jolla Shores Beach). 

    Be mindful of the fact that there are no lifeguards supervising Black’s Beach since the beach is designated as a swim-at-your-own-risk zone. You may occasionally see park rangers and lifeguards but they aren’t there permanently; they just patrol the areas of Torrey Pines State National Reserve. 

    Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Black’s Beach, California

    While Black’s Beach is famous for its nudist side and gnarly waves where surfers thrive, there are some other interesting facts about it that most people aren’t aware of. This might help you consider this amazing beach for one of your future travels (or reinforce your opinion if you’re already planning on visiting it!). 

    1. The Name

    The beach got its name after the Black family moved to La Jolla in the 1940s and bought land on the Torrey Pines cliffs, following the canyon down to the beach. They would eventually build a Thoroughbred horse farm because the Del Mar Fairgrounds worked great as a horse racing venue. 

    Unfortunately, the horse farm wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped so they sold the land a few years down the line. 

    The name has stuck since then and the area that was once owned by the Black family (as well as the beach) is now known as Black’s Beach. 

    2. Maintenance at Night

    Most maintenance on public spaces is done during the day so why is the stairway that leads from the Gliderport to the beach maintained at night? Well, the answer might surprise you. 

    Making any modifications or augmentations to the trail isn’t allowed per the San Diego Municipal Code and, because the city of San Diego doesn’t do any maintenance on the trail themselves, someone else has to. 

    The Black’s Beach Bares (a clothing-optional advocacy group) maintains the trail and the stairs during the off-season. They have to do it during the early morning hours or late evening hours to avoid citations by the rangers. The only reason they do it (even if it’s not allowed) is to keep visitors safe. 

    3. Surfing Wasn’t Always Present

    Black’s Beach is known as one of the prime surfing locations in San Diego nowadays but this wasn’t always the case. In fact, this surfing spot is fairly young compared to other ones. 

    Certain sources state that the first people to ride the waves at Black’s Beach were longtime experienced surfers John Light, Peter Lusic, Joe Trotter, and Don Roncy in 1959. 

    Soon after their wondrous excursion, they went back to La Jolla and told everyone about how good of a surfing spot it is. After that, a few people joined them and kept the location secret for 5 years until word got out among the general population in 1964

    4. Shotguns and Rock Salt

    In the early 60s, surfers would have only one way of reaching the beach - taking the road through William Black’s property and down to the beach. The road was under constant protection by William Black who would often have a shotgun loaded with rock salt ready for tresspasers. 

    But the surfers probably didn’t mind it that much since it just served as another shot of adrenaline prior to hitting the waves!

    5. Secret Moonlit Drum Circles

    For a couple of years, people used to come to Black’s Beach when there was a full moon and hold a drum circle. They’d set up camp, light a fire, play drums and dance with the music for hours. 

    Once they were done, they’d pick up all of their trash and equipment and would leave the area. No one would even know they were there. 

    However, people eventually found out about it and started coming to the beach in masses, eventually causing some issues which forced the hosts (Rainbow Family) to shut down the gatherings. 

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    Final Thoughts

    Black’s Beach clearly has a rich & interesting history that most people aren’t aware of. While it is a unique beach in a beautiful area, be sure to keep all of the above in mind. 

    If you have plans to try and visit this beach, be sure you’re up for the trek, are aware of the potential nudist’s on the beach, and that you are very careful getting there as well as during your visit!